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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Sperm Lately I’ve been thinking of our sperm in their little cases, waiting to be called, to bolster and bloom like mulberry limbs scraping bedroom windows in the spring. What would we say to them if we could, these harbingers of love, these urgent arguments of desire who wait inside us gloved like old women at garden parties? The past, we might say, something about nostalgia, how it makes the present feel bereft, how as children we scoured the neighborhood for important things: bottle caps, tin whistles, charred pieces of wood. We built things that our fathers tore down, then we kissed our mothers on the cheeks. This was the way it was done, our father’s sperm becoming our brothers and sisters, becoming us. One day, they told us, we would carry on the family name, ingratiating ourselves like the maple trees, dispersing our winged seeds across the lawn. We would stand like our fathers in greasy trousers, starting the engines of old Chevys. We’d slip off our sunglasses, unbutton our shirt collars, wink at pretty girls on the sides of the road. Pulling out of their father’s driveways, we’d light our cigarettes, smile and never look back as if we weren’t even sure where we’d come from or who might have come from us. The Eagle Tattoo Whenever my father hit me I could see it along his bicep, scraping a hooked beak down the spine of each feather. At night it circled our house, rapped the fogged windowpanes, perching on the red maples outside my bedroom as I clutched my blanket, hoping to soothe it with soda crackers, seeds or bits of tuna left along the window ledge. Soon, I would lead it inside, touch its face, stroke its twisted feet, the damp clumps of feathers separating under my fingers to expose loose veined skin, blue vessels glistening like wet roads along the ravine, winding past the creek and away from here. BRUCE SNIDER Bruce Snider was a James A. Michener fellow at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin from 1993 to 1996, where he currently serves as the Graduate Coordinator. A former recipient of the T,S. Eliot Award, he has published poems in journals including Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, Artful 4i lixAS OgstiV8it’ ” Dodge, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. Snider teaches creative writing in U.T.-Austin’s extension program. Both poems here are from a series called “Clarity.” Naomi Shihab Nye mArtcli ti,Joo